2016 Ducati XDiavel S - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

Ducati takes the Diavel further into cruiser land. But is it really a cruiser?

2016 Ducati XDiavel S on the road action

The XDiavel is Ducati's interpretation of a full-out cruiser motorcycle with forward controls, belt drive, 240mm wide rear tire, and all. They got the cruiser thing mostly wrong, we're happy to say.

Ducati got the low seat right, at 29.7 inches. The bike also has an obligatory long rake of 30-degrees. And it has an insanely long wheelbase of 63.58 inches, which is even longer than Ducati's own Diavel. The XDiavel's stance and silhouette can encourage enthusiasts into thinking it might be a cruiser, but riding it reveals that's actually a superbike dressed up all odd like. The XDiavel performs. For its geometry numbers it has shockingly light handling, a hugely tall rev range, miles of horsepower on top of piles of torque, and a full 40-degrees of lean angle. It has serious performance.

The $19,995 XDiavel sports a larger, 1262cc, version of the Ducati Testastretta Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) L-Twin Dual Spark engine, and a full compliment of all of Ducati's latest electronics: Riding Modes, Power Modes, Ducati Safety Pack (Bosch cornering ABS and DTC), multiple riding modes, DPL (Ducati Power Launch), Ride by Wire, cruise control, Hands-Free keyless ignition, full-LED lighting, and backlit handlebar switches. No modern technology was left behind. The $22,995 XDiavel S has the above plus full-LED lighting with DRL (Daytime Running Lights), Bluetooth module, Infotainment system, glossy black engine with machined belt covers, a premium seat, machined aluminum mirrors and wheels, and upgraded front brakes.

2016 Ducati XDiavel S static side view

Although the XDiavel is a member of the Diavel family, this variation shares very few parts with the original Diavel, which is still available if this more-cruiser-like silhouette isn’t your cup of espresso.

The XDiavel is a different shape than a Ducati Multistrada or Panigale, but it is not a tad less of a Ducati. And it is clearly the best ever performing Ducati… with forward controls. That said, its performance isn't perfect.

A marvel of the XDiavel is that it has six ECUs to manage its many high-tech functions. Topping the hierarchy of them is the Engine ECU, because torque is king. The other five include the IMU, which is a precisely mounted computer and inertia sensor for speed, pitch, roll, acceleration, and deceleration; ABS; Black Box System (BBS) that manages such things as the DTC; the TFT dashboard; and the Hands Free Device. Yes, the dashboard is a separate computer. It’s as if there are six smartphones inside every XDiavel. Really smart phones with really cool apps.

Purists might be riled by Ducati claiming this is a cruiser, but so what? Those kids tend to only have one pair of shoes and they wear white underwear. The XDiavel is not an improved Diavel, it's a Diavel redo. The only things that are the same between the two motorcycles are the calipers and the tires. While the Diavel was an odd modernish Italiany Ducati interpretation of a cruiser, the XDiavel is… well, an odd newer modernish Italiany Ducati interpretation of a cruiser. Ducati is all in this time. Cue the Ballad of Easy Rider and let's get searching for America.

But don’t look for any retro signatures in Ducati’s interpretation of a cruiser. Cruiser is a concept and Ducati’s interpretation is to break as many rules as possible. It has forward controls, a seat as low as an ottoman, and it’s black on black on black with black accents complemented by black. But it goes like stink.

2016 Ducati XDiavel S on-road action

On the road, the XDiavel feels anything but cruiser-like, offering excellent power, handling, braking, and 40 degrees of lean angle, all in a package that offers a low seat height under 30 in.

Rather than repeat technical features of the XDiavel that are available everywhere, we’ll stick as we’ve been doing to the deep tracks, as revealed in a one-on-two with Product Manager Stefano Tarabusi, and Project Engineer Eugenio Gherardi.

The bore is the same but the stroke is longer, on this 1262cc version of the 1198 Testastretta DVT L-twin that first appeared in the Multistrada. Longer stroke increases torque, though it also results in a higher piston speed at an equal rpm. Even so, this engine has a high redline (10,000 rpm) compared to less-performance oriented or older Ducati twins, allowing it to maintain a high amount of horsepower with a claimed peak of 156 at 9,500 rpm.

Some of you might wonder that since a two-valve design provides more torque than a four valve, why is this engine a four valve? Two reasons. Because Ducati didn’t want to sacrifice horsepower, and because there is no way to optimize two valves that would be big enough; four valves takes advantage of the most possible surface area of the combustion chamber. Plus, combined with DVT, longer stroke, and higher compression, the torque party has enough proponents.

The wide and fat torque curve reaches its claimed peak way low with 95.0 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm, compared to 96.3 at 8,000 of the Diavel. And it has nearly peak torque from about 4,000 rpm to 8,000, sporting a useable curve that smokes those other numbers. It’s impressive to the point of outrageous that a cruiser can have so much grunt and go from 4,000 to 9,500 rpm, giving such a wide breadth of hard acceleration when rolling up and down through the rev range on a fun and curvy road. Yet, it’s also surprising how little this beauty of an engine enjoys full throttle at any revs below these numbers, where it’s met by a vocal kagack-kagack of mechanical displeasure. The easy solution for a rider is, don’t do that.

2016 Ducati XDiavel footpegs
2016 Ducati XDiavel belt drive

Yes, the XDiavel has belt final drive, but is this feature and foot-forward pegs proof enough that it’s a cruiser?

As mentioned, the XDiavel is a whole new motorcycle compared to the Diavel, from the engine to the chassis, as should be apparent to some degree in even a passing glance. The engine is a stressed member and the heads are now reinforced for more structural integrity. The clutch and cam-drive covers are also thicker to help meet more restrictive noise limits. Those concerns plus the DVT and a slightly larger fuel tank have resulted in a weight increase of about 20 pounds, but the XDiavel is still lighter than any of its competition, though down 3.5 percent in mpg from its older brother.

Like it’s older brother, the XDiavel handles surprisingly lightly for a long, long motorcycle with a big fat 240mm rear tire. The XDiavel is 1.36-inches longer, with a 63.6-inch wheelbase. Rake is 30-degrees compared to the 28-degrees of the Diavel, but trail is at the same huge 5.1. Because more rake results in more trail, the offset was increased by 0.23 in. to bring the trail numbers back down.

The fork is a Marzocchi with 50mm stanchions, with a light spring inside the right leg and a stiffer spring in the left leg, which has the only front preload adjuster. Adjustable compression damping is in the left leg, while adjustable rebound is in the right one. The shock is not fully adjustable, having choices only for preload and rebound.

2016 Ducati XDiavel dash

The TFT full-color display is a marvel of sophistication. With it you can change screens, riding modes, mode specifics, and so forth.

The as-delivered compression damping of the shock is disappointing in how its high-speed function is inadequate. We’re talking shock shaft velocity here, not motorcycle speed. Sharp bumps result in a sharp jarring to the rider, exacerbated by the cruiser seating position. On a sportbike, riders support their weight on their butt, inner thighs, feet and arms. On a sit-up forward-control cruiser, a riders’ weight is fully on their butt, allowing every hard bump to go right up through the spine. Whether or not the jolt is caused by bottoming out or not moving can’t be determined without monitoring it, because too soft and too hard can feel exactly the same. So, for high-speed, this shock is too, well, something.

As far as low-speed-suspension velocity goes, which has to do with the weight shift of braking, accelerating and undulating road surfaces, the damping is spot on. In fact, there is maybe only one other cruiser that can be ridden anywhere near as hard as the XDiavel, and it also isn’t made in America. The XDiavel chassis is solid and the machine is predictable in all high-speed, low-speed, and transitional situations. It steers and brakes with precision and there’s never a feeling of flexing beneath you or that you’re doing something sinful. You cannot ride the XDiavel too hard.

A couple final notes: Braking is much different between the standard and S versions, the first with Brembo M4-32 calipers and the S with Brembo M50 calipers. The standard’s feel is initially soft, requiring a fair amount of pull before significant braking occurs. The M50 system has a more exact and linear feel that provides better feedback and greater confidence. The adjustable foot controls, seat, and handlebars provide a total mathematical combination of 60 different positions, for your pleasure. Mid controls are also available for those of you who dig the bike but not the cruiser commitment.

2016 Ducati XDiavel static rear view

The Ducati Power Launch has three settings. To use it, the system is engaged with a button on the right controls, a setting selected, and the throttle held wide open. The clutch is then released slowly, not dumped. We had been warned not to use the DPL (??!!), but one journalist did, though without official orientation. So he dumped the clutch. Nice save, but there was no longer any prospect of a second chance for any of us. Damn.

The TFT full-color display is a marvel of sophistication. With it you can change screens, riding modes, mode specifics, and so forth. It’s better than TV.

The XDiavel is a bike—a cruiser—that offers a great deal, and it does it with the patented Ducati sexiness of individuality and serious performance. This machine will please and it is certainly a great bike for some riders. It’s hard to say who those riders are, but that’s more due to my lack of imagination than to the bike lacking character or performance, because it has gobs of both. The bottom line is, don’t let it’s silhouette fool you into thinking this bike is compromised.

Photo #1
2016 Ducati XDiavel S action.Milagro
Photo #2
2016 Ducati XDiavel action.Milagro
Photo #3
2016 Ducati XDiavel action.Milagro
Photo #4
2016 Ducati XDiavel action.Milagro
Photo #5
2016 Ducati XDiavel S action.Milagro
Photo #6
2016 Ducati XDiavel S action.Milagro
Photo #7
2016 Ducati XDiavel action.Milagro
Photo #8
2016 Ducati XDiavel details.Milagro
Photo #9
2016 Ducati XDiavel details.Milagro
Photo #10
2016 Ducati XDiavel details.Milagro
Photo #11
2016 Ducati XDiavel S details.Milagro
Photo #12
2016 Ducati XDiavel S details.Milagro
Photo #13
2016 Ducati XDiavel S details.Milagro
Photo #14
2016 Ducati XDiavel S details.Milagro